It wasn't supposed to end this way.
The Forrest Rockets suffered a heartbreaking 20-17 home loss to Marion County after squandering a 10-point second half lead in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
The Rockets were in the driver's seat, leading 17-7 and driving towards the Marion County end zone early in the fourth quarter when they fumbled the ball way to the Warriors, who used the momentum changing turnover to score 13 unanswered points.
Forrest head coach Kyle Stacey said after the game, "We had a couple of bad things happen and we really needed to keep some drives alive. We had some unfortunate things happen, but that is football. That's life. I am proud of them. This particular group of kids has really raised the bar and has really put a big challenge on the under-classmen that hopefully they can step up to."
The ballgame began in typical playoff fashion as both squads held firm on defense.
Forrest got the game's first break when Patrick Warner came up with an interception off of a tipped ball on the Warriors' second drive of the opening quarter.
The Rockets took it deep into Marion County territory to the 12-yard line, but the drive was squelched when they fumbled the ball back to the visitors.
Undaunted, the Rockets got the ball back on the next play when Josh Lowry fell on a loose ball at the MC nine yard line.
The Warriors tried to hold, stopping Forrest on three plays.
With a fourth and goal from the one yard line, Stacey called timeout with 1:11 to play in the quarter.
After the stoppage, senior Level Quezaire took a pitch from Dane Leonard and outraced the defense to the left pylon for a touchdown. Angel Reyes added the extra point, making it 7-0.
Quezaire would finish the ballgame with 153 yards on 34 carries and 1,230 yards for the season.
Marion County would have the ball at the Forrest 32-yard line as time ran out in the first quarter.
The Warriors drove it to the eight, but a block in the back penalty moved the ball back to the 16.
On the next play, Marion County quarterback Trey Hill took it into the end zone on a quarterback draw and Derek Tucker added the extra point, knotting the game at 7 with 9:36 left in the first half.
The Rocket offense responded in a big way.
Starting at their own 33-yard line, Forrest mixed in the pass with the run and began to march.
The first big play was a Leonard to Taylor Abrigo toss and catch that got the Rockets out of a third and fifteen hole.
Quezaire pounded the ball four straight times down the Warrior 28-yard line and Abrigo ran it to the 16 before Leonard fooled everyone in the house with a great fake and keeper, rumbling into the Warrior end zone for the score.
The Reyes extra point was true, putting Forrest back on top 14-7 with 2:26 left in the half.
Marion County got a nice kickoff return by Brandon Gibbs to the 47-yard line.
On the next play, Hayden Cook made a diving interception, giving the ball back to the Rockets near midfield with 1:10 left.
Forrest could not capitalize and the half ended with the Rockets still holding the seven-point lead.
The Rocket defense came out fired up in the second half, stopping the Warriors on a three-and-out.
A horrible punt gave the Rockets great field position at the MC 36-yard line.
Forrest drove the ball to the shadow of the Warrior goal line before Reyes came in for a 22-yard field goal attempt.
The kick was pulled to the left and was no good. Those missed three points would turn out to be huge later.
The Rocket 'D' was still in control as Marion County was stuffed on the next series. The big play was on first down when Warner and Cole Sells stopped MC running back Grant Goforth cold in the backfield.
Two plays later, the Warriors punted and again it was a short kick, giving FHS the ball at their own 45.
Quezaire rumbled for twelve yards on first down and Leonard ran for ten more on second.
The Warriors were flagged for double penalties on the Leonard run, giving Forrest the ball at the 19-yard line.
Forest could only move the ball from there to the 14 and had to settle for a Reyes 31-yard field goal, giving the Rockets a 10 point lead at 17-7 with 1:52 left in the 3rd quarter.
The outlook was still looking good for the Rockets as the defense forced Marion County to punt on the last possession of the 3rd quarter.
A short punt gave the Rockets great field position at the MC 39-yard line.
A score would have given the Rockets a nice cushion, but instead disaster struck when they fumbled at the 21-yard line with 10:18 left in the ballgame.
The Warriors, buoyed by the turnover, drove the ball 78 yards in five minutes and scored on a four-yard touchdown run by Hill with 5:17 left in the contest. The extra point was good, making it a three-point ballgame at 17-14.
Forrest took the kickoff and started the drive at their own 30-yard line.
On first down, Quezaire busted through the Warrior defense, scampering 40 yards down to the MC 30.
Once again, the Rockets needed a score, but could not get it, turning the ball over on downs at the Marion County thirteen.
Hill found Gibbs on the sideline for 8 yards and the Warriors ran two more yards for a first down.
On the next play, Hill tossed a backwards to Bobby Rankin, who stopped and threw the option pass downfield to Gibbs who hauled it in at the Forrest 31-yard line.
The Forrest defense that had been so tough all year was now back on its heels.
MC moved to the 21 where Hill took off on a sweep to the right, stepping out of bounds short of the first down, but a late hit on Forrest moved the ball all the way down to the Forrest seven.
The Warriors faked another right play out of the veer, but handed it off to Grant Goforth who swept left and into the end zone, giving Marion County a 20-17 lead.
The Rockets blocked the extra point, keeping it a three-point game with just 1:05 left in the contest.
Forrest got the kickoff at the 31-yard line.
Leonard threw an incompletion on first down and on second down, Robert Bailey ended the Rockets' season when he intercepted the ball in front of his sideline.
Stacey talked about the tough loss, saying, "This is about as tough as it gets to see these kids accomplish what they have accomplished this year and lose a tough ballgame like that. It is hard on everybody. Hard on the players, hard on the coaches, hard on the school, hard on the community, but it is like I told the kids. They have accomplished things that have not been accomplished here in a long time. They don't have anything to be disappointed about, to be sad about. It hurts now and it will hurt tomorrow, but when they look back on it they will have a smile on their face."